What You Need To Know About The Disturbing Sexual Assault Trend Called ‘Stealthing’
When it comes to safe sex, a condom seems like a no-brainer. When used properly, it is the most effective way to prevent sexually-transmitted infections, and of course, it also prevents pregnancy. Yet a paper published in the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law examines a disturbing new sex trend called “stealthing,” the act of intentionally and secretly removing a condom during intercourse without consent.
In the paper, author Alexandra Brodsky spoke to victims about the emotional and physical consequences of stealthing. The most obvious: unwanted pregnancy and STIs. But one victim named Rebecca told Brodsky, “None of it worried him. It didn’t perturb him. My potential pregnancy, my potential STI, that was my burden.”
On an emotional level, Brodsky reveals that the men and women who are victims of stealthing also experience a “deeply felt feeling of violation.” Another victim Brodsky interviewed for the study said, “The harm mostly had to do with trust. He saw the risk as zero for himself and took no interest in what it might be for me and from a friend and sexual partner. That hurt.” Another victim quoted in the study even referred to the act of stealthing as “rape-adjacent.”
And this isn’t something that has only happened to a few people. In her paper, Brodsky examines an online community devoted to sharing information and stories about “stealthing.” She looked, in particular, at a website that offers tips to users on how to do this to their own partners. While the website she looked at describes itself as a place for gay men, Brodsky found many comments that talked about heterosexual sex, too.
Based on the content of the site and comments from visitors, Brodsky describes this online community as males who “root their actions in misogyny and investment in male sexual supremacy.” Their communication focuses on a man’s “right” to “spread seed,” even when referring to stealthing in same-sex encounters. Brodsky argues in her study that consenting to sex with the use of a condom is not equivalent to consenting to sex without one at any point in the encounter.
In response, victims are expressing their frustration and seeking help on Reddit, with some threads amassing more than 70 comments.
According to The Guardian, a man was convicted of rape in Switzerland in January for removing his condom during sex without her consent in a landmark case. But Brodsky says she was unable to find a single legal case around this issue in the U.S.
Brodsky, for her part, concludes her paper by calling this behavior a form of “sexual violence,” and urges for a change to the law to recognize this as a punishable offense. “At its best, such a law would clearly respond to and affirm the harm victims report by making clear that ‘stealthing’ doesn’t just ‘feel violent’—it is,” she writes.